Medicine still cannot cure the common cold, but we may have just discovered a quick and inexpensive way to get you better, faster. A meta-analysis of three controlled trials has revealed that zinc acetate lozenges increases the rate of recovery from the common cold by a factor of three. The research was filed by a scientists at the University of Helsinki, Finland.
Even more promising: the effects of the lozenges were not affected at all by sex, age, race, allergy smoking or baseline cold severity – the benefits are across the board.
It is worth noting that that the dose of zinc given in the three studies was high: between 80 to 92 milligrams per day. But this is not the highest doses of zinc that medical researchers have ever doled out. In previous, non-common cold studies, zinc doses as high as 100 to 150 milligrams have been administered, and there is no record of adverse effects. And standard treatment for patients suffering from Wilson's disease is 150 milligrams daily for the rest of their life, so 80 to 92 milligrams per day to get rid of a cold more quickly may not be so bad.
All this said, talk to your doctor before loading up on zinc acetate for your cold, as certain medical conditions may preclude you from taking it safely. You should avoid taking zinc acetate with foods that are high in calcium or phosphorus; such foods will make it harder for your body to absorb zinc acetate. Foods high in calcium or phosphorus include yogurt, ice cream, milk, cheese, dried beans or peas, lentils, nuts, peanut butter, beer, cola soft drinks, and hot cocoa.
Note that many of the zinc lozenges marketed at your local pharmacy or health food store have either too low doses of zinc or they contain substances that bind zinc ions, such as citric acid. Read the labels, and confirm with your doctor that the zinc acetate you are taking is the real deal.
The lead author of the U Helsinki study, Dr. Harri Hemilä cautions that the optimal formulation of zinc lozenges and the best frequency of their administration should be further investigated, he also instructs common cold patients to test individually whether zinc lozenges are helpful for them: "given the strong evidence of efficacy and the low risk of adverse effects, common cold patients may already be encouraged to try zinc acetate lozenges not exceeding 100 mg of elemental zinc per day for treating their colds.”
The research has been published in Open Forum Infectious Disease.